The Union swung a major trade Wednesday, sending starting right back Keegan Rosenberry to the Colorado Rapids for a significant amount of cash in Major League Soccer’s allocation money system.
Colorado is paying $150,000 in general allocation money and $50,000 in targeted allocation money, which the Union can apply to this year’s salary cap, and an additional $100,000 in general allocation money that can be used in 2020. The Rapids will pay an additional $100,000 applicable in 2020 if Rosenberry meets certain performance marks next season. Neither the Union nor the Rapids would divulge those marks.
Rosenberry, a 25-year-old, Lancaster-area native, was the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2016, an All-Star, and the runner-up for Rookie of the Year. After that season, he received his first U.S. national team call-up. He leveled off the next year, earning a suspension for complaining on social media about a lack of playing time. But he rebounded this year, playing 38 games and nearly 3,300 minutes in all competitions.
Union sporting director Ernst Tanner said Rosenberry became expendable in part because of the rise of Olivier Mbaizo, a 21-year-old Cameroon native who joined the Union in April. Tanner also noted that Rosenberry’s contract expires after the 2019 season. That deal, which Rosenberry signed as a rookie, paid him $120,000 this year.
“We have the position covered with a very good prospect player, Olivier Mbaizo, who really showed us that he can play the position very well in the game against Kansas City," Tanner said. "And, in addition, we are in negotiations and on a good way with Ray Gaddis.”
That Gaddis may come back will raise eyebrows. He has a limited skill set and, with his contract expiring, seemed to be done with the Union. But Tanner indicated that returning the 28-year-old to his natural position of right back will produce better results.
Tanner would not say that Gaddis will be a better fit than Rosenberry, but said of Gaddis, "When he plays on the left-hand side, sometimes he’s a little bit lost. I expect him to do much better on the right.”
The coach also said he’s shopping for another left back, since Matt Real will likely be gone for up to six weeks in May and June for the under-20 World Cup. Though the Union re-signed Fabinho, he’ll turn 34 in March and probably won’t play much.
“We need a left back, that’s without any question,” Tanner said, adding that negotiations with the player he’s targeting have been “promising."
That signing seems likely to come in atop the depth chart.
Real is "for sure one of the bigger prospects we have, but he needs playing time, and he probably can only get playing time in the first period of the season with Bethlehem,” Tanner said of the Drexel Hill native. “There needs to be some development done for sure, and maturity in soccer terms. But, I trust in him.”
The USL announced the full 2019 league schedule Wednesday. It will be Bethlehem Steel’s first full season at Talen Energy Stadium after the team had to leave the Lehigh Valley because of a lack of floodlights at Lehigh University’s Goodman Stadium.
Perhaps the most notable game on the slate will be May 25, when former Union manager John Hackworth and player Danny Cruz return to Chester with reigning USL champion Louisville City FC. The only intrastate rival coming to town will be the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on March 30. Harrisburg-based Penn FC is on hiatus while the club looks for a better venue in that region than the small stadium on City Island. They plan to return to action in 2020 and will drop to the third-tier USL League One.
Bethlehem will go to Pittsburgh on July 4, a marquee date. Steel will also serve as the opponent for two new USL teams' home openers: Birmingham (Ala.) Legion FC on March 9, and Loudon United FC, owned by D.C. United, on May 3.
Kickoff times will be announced later, and some dates might be changed based on the Union’s schedule. All games will be available via streaming on ESPN+, and some will also be televised on Service Electric’s cable channel in the Lehigh Valley.
There’s no word on whether there will be Union-Steel doubleheaders; that will be decided once the Union’s schedule is set.
The USL also announced that the playoffs will expand from eight teams per conference to 10. Seeds 7-10 will have a play-in round within each conference. More details are available on the USL’s website.
Steel’s 2019 schedule is:
March 9: at Birmingham Legion FC
March 16: vs. North Carolina FC
March 23: vs. Memphis 901 FC
March 30: vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
April 6: at Swope Park Rangers (Sporting Kansas City’s USL team)
April 13: vs. Charleston Battery
April 16: at Charlotte Independence
April 24: vs. Indy Eleven
May 3: at Loudoun United FC (D.C. United’s USL team)
May 12: vs. Atlanta United FC 2
May 17: at Ottawa Fury FC
May 25: vs. Louisville City FC
June 1: at New York Red Bulls II
June 8: vs. Nashville SC
June 15: vs. Saint Louis FC
June 22: vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
June 29: at Hartford Athletic
July 4: at Pittsburgh Riverhounds
July 10: vs. New York Red Bulls II
July 20: at Louisville City FC
July 27: at Saint Louis FC
July 31: vs. Hartford Athletic Home
Aug. 10: at Nashville SC
Aug. 24: vs. Birmingham Legion FC
Aug. 31: vs. Swope Park Rangers
Sept. 7: at North Carolina FC
Sept. 14: at Indy Eleven Away
Sept. 18: vs. Loudoun United FC
Sept. 21: at Tampa Bay Rowdies
Sept. 28: at Memphis 901 FC
Oct. 5: vs. Charlotte Independence
Oct. 9: at Atlanta United FC 2
Oct. 12: vs. Ottawa Fury FC